MILWAUKEE -- Tracy McGrady didn't even need a decent view of the basket to hit a jump shot. Yao Ming scored three times before fans had shuffled back to their seats after halftime.
"If we are both making shots, then it's miserable for the other team," McGrady said.
Miserable, indeed -- to the tune of a 23-point lead late in the third quarter.
But after teaming up to lead a big spurt after halftime, McGrady and Yao were kept under control down the stretch and the Houston Rockets had to squeak by with a 97-93 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
McGrady scored 32 and Yao added 23 for the Rockets, and the two combined for all of the points in Houston's 17-7 run at the beginning of the third quarter.
But after some defensive substitutions by Milwaukee, both Rockets stars went cold late in the fourth quarter and the Bucks were able to knock their lead down to single digits.
"They showed signs of folding," McGrady said. "Then they made some subs, and guys came in there and started playing hard and started making shots. We gave them a little bit of confidence there down the stretch. They made it tough for us for a little bit."
Michael Redd scored 34 for Milwaukee, hitting the 30-point mark for the third time in five games. Redd and guard Charlie Bell helped the Bucks make a fourth-quarter comeback attempt that ultimately fell short.
"We wound up losing, but we pulled off a great effort," Redd said.
Yao hit three field goals before the Bucks scored a point in the second half, then McGrady answered a hook shot by the Bucks' Charlie Villanueva with a 3-pointer.
"We knew Tracy was going to end up making shots," Rockets guard Luther Head said. "We knew it was coming, and he showed it. He was incredible. Yao was just being Yao, doing what he does every night. Give the big fella the ball."
Later in the quarter, McGrady spun around and hit a jump shot -- releasing the ball before he had fully twisted to face the basket -- to put the Rockets ahead 69-50 with 4:01 remaining.
The 6-foot-3 Bell guarded the 6-8 McGrady, a height advantage that Bell said allowed McGrady to get good shots even with a hand in his face.
"I look over at the bench and say, 'What else can I do?"' Bell said.
On the Rockets' next possession, McGrady came back and hit another jumper. The Rockets led by 23 late in the third quarter and had a 76-58 lead to begin the fourth quarter.
Bucks fans turned their attention to a hometown star -- chanting to Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy to put rookie Steve Novak, a former Marquette player, in the game.
But McGrady and Yao went cold after Bucks coach Terry Stotts made some defensive substitutions, putting backup center Brian Skinner on Yao instead of starter Andrew Bogut.
"We needed to get back in the game defensively, and I thought that Brian was a good matchup for us," Stotts said.
Milwaukee closed within 10 on a 3-pointer by Bell, and Milwaukee's Dan Gadzuric added a layup, cutting the Rockets' lead to 82-74 with 7:52 remaining.
Bucks fans chanted "Put in Novak!" at the end of the game, but Van Gundy didn't oblige. Novak, who had 25 friends and family members in the crowd, hasn't played in Houston's last two games. ... 40-year-old Houston center Dikembe Mutombo had 10 points, including eight in the first half, and played a season-high 13 minutes. "That was good. We needed that," Mutumbo said. "I can shoot those jumpers. I shoot it in practice. It's something that we have been working on, and today it was just my time." ... Villanueva, who has averaged a double-double in points and rebounds through the Bucks' first four games, was held to eight points on 3-for-8 shooting. ... Wednesday's attendance was 16,102. ... Houston outrebounded Milwaukee 43-33, enjoying a double-digit rebounding edge for their third straight game.